Wednesday, October 31, 2018


1. The pillows in our room are way too comfortable
2. My squirrel-molested hair
3. Erik is taller than I am so he keeps getting all the chicks
4. I bit the side of my tongue so hard and so shreddy four hours ago while eating super-spicy (OUCH), super-acidy-tomatoey (OUCH) pizza that I’m STILL discovering how extensive the damage is
5. There is not enough time in the day to adequately complain about how awful the pain and blood and taste and resulting speech impediment are
6. Steve King
7. I’ve been up so long today that I’m too tired to do the math to figure out how many hours it’s been plus adjust for the new time zone
8. Steve King
9. My tung hurch
10. The pillows in our room are way too comfortable

My hair has an unfortunate drowned-rat quality this evening

Which is EXACTLY why I didn’t get a phone number from that hot guy with the wife and kids on the monorail.

Break out the cargo shorts and black socks with Tevas because We! Are! Here!

The bus stop at the Island of Aruba in the Caribbean Beach Resort is the best Disney fun we’ve had all day. SO FAR.

Wheels Down In Orlando Step 1: BADASS SUNGLASSES

What the hell is your problem, American Planes Connecting At Charlotte?

This is the second vacation in a row where we’ve landed so early that we can’t pull up to our gate because it’s still occupied. So we’re sitting on the tarmac like quarantined European shrubbery waiting to get the OK that we won’t bring Austrian Oak Borers into America.
OK, so that was a bad metaphor. But there were no cinnamon rolls at the shitty-Pepsi-only CID kiosk so I’m hungry and I have to pee and I’m not thinking clearly and I WANT TO GET IN THE TERMINAL BEFORE I STARVE TO DEATH AND GET EATEN BY AUSTRIAN OAK BORERS AND AM MYSELF TERMINAL.

The boarding pass I’ve stuck in this book to eventually use as a bookmark tells me I’ve been schlepping it around unread for over two years

So I guess I’ll finally read it now before the receipt expires and I can’t return it to the bookstore.
Also: I hate that the only kiosk at CID sells only Pepsi products. And that it’s already out of cinnamon rolls.

Also: The tall, tan blond dude with the alluringly thick thighs who is sitting three seats away from me wearing Tretorns at the airport gate is totally gay and totally objectifying me. I hope.

Also: Bright yellow Mickey Mouse running shoes!

Also: Last night, after now 14 months of research and meetings and writing and scanning and formatting and copyfitting, I finally got the last of the stray information I was waiting for and finally made my last decisions about the pages I wasn’t sure I had the information and photos to support and I FINALLY released to the printing gods the massive book I’ve been editing and producing to commemorate First Lutheran Church’s 150th anniversary. Plus I finished two epic program-notes essays for Hancher Auditorium in Iowa City. Plus I finished a smallish work initiative a day early since I’m leaving right now on vacation. Plus I know all my lines and music for Elf the Musical. I feel like I’m finally out from under an enormous cloud of endless obligations and I can finally, actually breathe for the first time in forever. Which, totally-not-planned coincidentally, is a song from Frozen. Which is a musical by Disney. WHICH IS WHERE I’M GOING ON VACATION RIGHT NOW.


It’s Mouse time! Or whatever-Goofy-is time! Whatever.

Happy #Hallowmeme!

Since my countdown to tonight got off and I forget what I’ve already posted, I’m just gonnna unleash a memevalanche of all the weird Halloween stuff I’ve compulsively collected on my phone, which should be scary in itself. Boo!

Tuesday, October 30, 2018


Dignity. Always dignity.

Happy 79th birthday to my dad!

My awesome father taught me how to throw a football (sorry that pastime didn’t stick) and cheat at cribbage (or that one) and swear more creatively than the other kids on the playground (that TOTALLY did), showed me how to drive a stick shift even on a steep hill, instilled in me a fascination with history, bought me My First Toolbox™ when I bought my first house, embraced me wholly as his gay son in an era when other dads would treat homosexuality as a family shame, dutifully cheered me on whether I was in a boring show or running a boring race, patiently and determinedly worked to help bring me back from and daily manage the unfathomable depths of bipolar depression—often just by telling me he’s glad I’m here—and accepted his blindness from macular degeneration with grace and humor and dignity. He continues to set a daily example of kindness and altruism that inspires me to try to be loving and decent and fair in every situation I encounter. I'm guessing you're probably having this read to you, Dad, so tell Mom to say this part with dramatic emphasis: I love you!

2 days until #Hallowmeme!

(Yes, I’m fully aware that my countdown days are somehow off, but I can’t just skip a number to re-synch everything because that would cause a tear in the time-space continuum, which is how things like walnut brownies, store-bought costumes and Sarah Huckabee Sanders claw their way up from the seventh circle and into the viable world.)

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Dad’s ultra-fancy almost-birthday brunch!

We’re doing it two days early because my nephew is home for the weekend. More importantly, though, is the fact that I got us lined up better than the Brady kids on their staircase for this family selfie.

4 days until #Hallowmeme!

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Someone is as f...a...r ... a...w...a...y as possible from me


One paragraph more!

One of my favorite freelance writing gigs of all time is writing program notes for some of the musicals and concerts that come to Hancher Auditorium in Iowa City. I get to write about pretty much anything I want that I find related to a show or concert—which is completely freaking awesome for me as a researcher and writer—and I have pretty much no word limit—which is completely horrible for me as a researcher and writer WHO DOESN’T KNOW WHEN TO STOP.

Case in point: This 79-chapter manifesto I’ve just written for the upcoming tour of Les Misérables. It took me easily 10 more hours of research than I’d intended, which is especially bad because I still have to write program notes for two other concerts before I leave for Disney on Wednesday. But IT. IS. AWESOME.

And you’ll just have to come an hour early when you see Les Misérables to SAVOR. EVERY. WORD.

Private note to Hancher so none of you had better read it: Is this headline too weird? I mean from a gluten-sensitivity standpoint?

We've run out of summer

1. Last training run of the season!
2. My second and last half marathon is in eight days.
3. And no, I won’t be training any more for it.
4. Because after my summer of chronic injuries and my aborted NewBo half marathon, I’ve kind of given up.
5. But I’ll start next weekend’s half marathon with optimism and see what happens.
6. I’ll also start with a super-cute outfit.
7. So there’s that.
8. Rob and Scott joined me this morning for our last hurrah of 2018.
9. They’ve been awesome running buddies and all-around friends all summer.
10. Now that training season is over, I’m sure we’ll revert to our usual state of evil, backstabbing nemesises.
11. Those poopyheads.
12. See? It’s already started.
13. It’s impossible to say nemesises without sounding gay.
14. Same with cilantro citrus salad.
15. Sssssssssssssss.
16. Chicago David was in town so he also ran with us.
17. But he’s either an overachiever or a showoff because he kept running when we stopped so he could do more miles.
18. So he didn’t get to be in the selfie.
19. The poopyhead.
20. Nemesises.
21. I’m sweaty.
22. And sleepy.
23. And sworn to secrecy about my cilantro citrus salad recipe.
24. So shhhhhhhhhh!
25. I saw a show long ago that took place on a gay ship named the SS Sibilant S.
26. I don’t remember where I saw it, but it was silly.
27. Anyway.
28. We chose a pretty tree as the background for our final selfie today.
29. Which is so low-concept that it forced me to wander off on a whistley-lisp tangent here.
30. Whistley lisp.
31. Cilantro Nemesis and the Whistley Lisps.
32. I’ll take Polka-Punk Bands I Would Never Listen To for ssssssix hundred, Alex.
33. Sssssssso sssssssleepy.
34. My knee injury is apparently NOT as healed as it had led me to believe.
35. I don’t see it causing me any problems for the Disney races, but it will certainly make its presence known.
36. I may have a goofknee, but at least I don’t have a plutoe.
37. I just made that up.
38. You owe me sssseven dollars if you found it amusing.
39. Good jokes don’t write themselves.
40. And a GOOD joke would cost you a whole lot more.
41. Mom made a peach pie while we were out running.
42. I bought my folks some fancy pie fillings when I was in Galena.
43. And my dad’s birthday is Tuesday.
44. Which is more than enough reason to spontaneously bake a pie.
45. So is the fact that the jars of pie filling were still sitting on the counter where they couldn’t be ignored.
46. Since he’s blind, we’re getting him an Alexa (or one of her smart-speaker sisteren, I forget which) in the hopes that she’ll make it easier for him to listen to the news or play music or bake a pie or whatever else it is that those things do.
47. Since he’s blind, he also can’t read Facebook so I can say what his gift is here and he’ll never know.
49. Because Alexa will find out and hunt you down and make you listen to Polka Punk.
50. Smart speaker sisteren.
51. You thought I was gonna let that one slide, didn’t you?
52. Ssssslide.
53. To review:
54. Nemesises.
55. Cilantro citrus salad.
56. Sweaty.
57. Sleepy.
58. Sworn to secrecy.
59. Cilantro citrus salad recipe.
60. SS Sibilant S.
61. Silly.
62. Whistley lisp.
63. Cilantro Nemesis and the Whistley Lisps.
64. Smart-speaker sisteren.
65. Ssssslide.
66. Sixty-six.
67. Well THAT was a surprising coincidence.
68. Surprising coincidence.
69. Sssssssso sssssssleepy.
70. See ya!

5 days until #Hallowmeme!

Friday, October 26, 2018

At last! My half-marathon Mickey costume is complete!

Nobody thought it would be one of the kids

Nobody probably thought the Boat Crew would last this long, actually.

When four young couples from the same Cedar Rapids Lutheran church rented a houseboat and sailed up and down the Mississippi River for a long weekend in the summer of 1971, nobody probably even thought it was more than a one-time vacation.

But the couples invited more couples and did it again the next summer, and the next. Over time, a few couples came and went, but the tradition lived on summer after summer. Eventually a core group of seven couples emerged, and the Boat Crew was established … and a vital extended family was born.

Unofficially (or officially, depending on your personal opinion) the group’s name was the Mississippi River Marching and Drinking Society. But “Boat Crew” was easier to say. And less complicated to explain to the couples’ children, who were all about the age of the Boat Crew tradition itself.

As lives and careers evolved, many of the couples moved away … but everyone came back summer after summer for what had become an annual gathering of Boat Crew family with bonds as strong as any biological family.

And that family bond extended beyond the relationship between the seven couples; their children often spent the Boat Crew weekends together in one couple’s house, under the probably exhausted watch of two or three weekend-long babysitters.

Naturally, the kids developed a family bond as strong as their parents’. They were unofficial siblings in an extended family network, and they felt confident in the parental love they received from every member of the Boat Crew.

As the summers passed, the Boat Crew bond continued to grow and strengthen, especially over a developing collection of in-jokes, funny stories and traditions that became almost sacred. The most prominent tradition was Joy. It started when one couple brought a large white flag emblazoned with the word Joy in bright colors and displayed it on the ship’s mast. The flag appeared every summer, and eventually it inspired the regular exchanging of Joy-festooned knickknacks, shirts, Christmas ornaments (all collectively over the years described as "Joy shit") and even one summer little bottles of Joy dishwashing soap.

Music – an integral part of the Lutheran church where they all met – was just as important to the Boat Crew. The group contained many talented singers, and as they gathered under the stars with a guitar and a couple bottles of wine each summer, they sang hymns and folk songs and show tunes and whatever else they could think of. Their unofficial anthem was “Beautiful Savior,” which they sang together – in full, glorious harmony – on every gathering.

As the kids grew over the next four decades, the Boat Crew also started convening off-season for confirmations and graduations and weddings and grandchildren and the occasional family tragedy … and the inevitable deaths of the Boat Crew couples’ elderly parents.

And through it all, the Boat Crew became a bit of a statistical anomaly: seven couples who lived into their 50s and 60s and 70s and now 80s … and stayed friends … and stayed married … and stayed alive.

As they started to retire from their jobs and prioritize grandparent obligations over Boat Crew gatherings, the group wasn’t always able to find a summer weekend that all seven couples could attend. And the “boat” part of Boat Crew became a bit of an anachronism; the summer reunions were happening now in Bed and Breakfasts overlooking the Mississippi instead of boats on the Mississippi.

And as they started to navigate the medical infirmities and physical indignities that come with age, the Boat Crew members started to contemplate their own mortality. Never ones to face life with fear or even reverence, they were realistic that eventually they were going to start dying … and they were not above having betting pools over who would go first.

But it never occurred to anyone that the first to die might not be one of the adults.

Robbie (who as an adult called himself Robert but I’d known him since we were toddlers and I could never think of him as anyone but Robbie) was 42, pretty much right in the middle of the range of ages of the Boat Crew kids. He started getting sick seven years ago last summer, but he didn’t think it was much to worry about: just some lower back pain, fatigue and abdominal discomfort. But then the guy behind the Chicago neighborhood deli counter where he went every day told him he looked yellow. And he became painfully constipated. And on a trip home to see his parents in Iowa, he decided to see a doctor.

And that’s where he found out.

Colon cancer.

Stage 4.

Colon cancer patients at stage 4 have an 8-15% chance of being alive five years after diagnosis. And Robbie, forever the optimist, dove right into surgery and chemotherapy while his parents took care of him in their home.

But it quickly became obvious that he was losing the battle. And as he eventually slipped into a coma, his parents – buoyed by the love and calls and texts and emails of Boat Crew members across the country – kept a vigil by his bed.

And six weeks after his diagnosis – six weeks after driving himself and his two cats seven hours from Chicago to his parents’ house, five weeks after walking into the doctor’s office with what he thought were just stomach pains, three weeks after cheering on friends in the Chicago Marathon via Facebook – Robbie drew his last breath, sending waves of shock and devastation throughout his extended Boat Crew family.

Robbie’s father had died of cancer 40 years earlier, before the Boat Crew had been officially established. His widowed mother and the man who eventually became her next husband had been regular Boat Crew members from nearly the beginning.

While she was still single, though, she and Robbie had taken vacations with our family a number of times, often to Adventureland amusement park in Des Moines, Iowa, and once on a Bicentennial road trip to Philadelphia to see the Liberty Bell and to Washington, D.C., to see pretty much everything else associated with America’s birth.

Robbie and I went to different high schools and colleges, but we eventually both found our ways to Chicago. We kept seeing each other at Boat Crew gatherings, but we’d slowly drifted apart … as had many of the Boat Crew kids as we scattered about the country and built our own families.

Robbie’s parents and mine, of course, had stayed fast Boat Crew friends. And when Robbie was facing the first weeks of his cancer treatments, my parents made a trip to Des Moines to stay with them.

Robbie died seven years ago today. Even though I knew it was inevitable, I was more choked up than I’d expected to be when I got the call. We hadn’t seen each other in probably eight years. And I knew that he was no longer suffering through an excruciating illness. But his death – especially as a Boat Crew kid and not an adult – was a shock to all of us … and an indescribable devastation to his parents. And though nobody in the extended Boat Crew family has died since Robbie did, we are all tacitly preparing ourselves for the next passing.

But for the first time in many years, the entire Boat Crew – along with a handful of Boat Crew kids – dropped everything in their lives and appeared at the funeral. Forever part of the family, we walked in with Robbie’s parents and biological family members and were seated right behind them. And when the congregation sang “Beautiful Savior,” the Boat Crew’s beautiful harmonies rose above the music as if to lift Robbie to whatever awaited him in the afterlife and remind him of the loving extended family he’d been a part of on earth.

His parents asked me to be one of his pall bearers, which I accepted as an honor. Escorting a lifelong friend to his grave is overwhelming – especially when we’re both so young – but I felt giving him a solemn, respectful final journey was the best gift I could give him. He was family, after all.

6 days until #Hallowmeme!

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

We're here

For all the irrational hatred and the isolationist hypocrisy and the manipulative demagoguery Trump and his vile, desperate, defiantly hypocritical sycophants are using to tear this country apart morally, socially and intellectually ... for all the ignorance they've perpetuated and the lies they've parroted to shore up their base ... for all the ugliness and hostility and racism and sexism and phobias they've unleashed from the dungeons and the shadows and the basest instincts of humankind ... they've ironically and unintentionally and no doubt regrettably inspired something quite beautiful: a mass uprising of love and support for every person they vilify and every minority they oppress and every demographic they scapegoat in their bloodthirsty quest to dehumanize and destroy us all for their own gain.

And if you're a trans person--especially if you're a trans kid--we want you to know we're here.

There are legions of us who have been and who currently are and who will continue to be your friends and allies and champions with no judgments, no condemnations and no barriers. We may not have been as visible to you as we'd have liked in the past out of consideration for your privacy or lack of a forum to communicate to you or even out of concern that we might inadvertently say or do something awkward or uncomfortable or insensitive around you. But we're here. And it is now our moral and social and just simply human imperative to make sure you know who we are.

Whether you're just coming to terms with your need to transition, beginning to comprehend the emotional and physical and social journey ahead of you, taking the first tentative steps in changing your persona and your presentation and your name, or standing bravely and confidently and proudly at any point on the transition continuum ... our primary interest in your trans identity is that you are safe and healthy and happy.

We may never fully comprehend the extent of what your personal or collective journey has entailed--and we may ask a lot of questions both out of curiosity and a sincere need to better understand where you've been and where you're going.

But we're here. And we stand with you both in person and at the dawn of a new sense of community. And we want you to know we love and respect you just as you are. Or just as you need to be.

We're here.

Eight days until #Hallowmeme!

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Pointless Knickknacks I Have Bought, Volume 5: This Cat-Thing

The Gays Do Galena reunion weekend is over and all that’s left are memories, photos, surplus Diet Cokes and lingering exhaustion from staying up too late gabbing

Twenty years ago we talked about which clubs to go to, celebrated six-month-iversaries with our new boyfriends, and shopped the clearance pages of the International Male catalog for super-cute wrap shorts and terry jumpers that we could afford on our fledgling-career incomes. This weekend we celebrated double-digit anniversaries, talked about our growing invisibility both socially and professionally, used grownup words like “escrow” and “lumbar region,” and wondered how we all suddenly found ourselves hovering around the 50-year range. Here are just a few of the health and old-man problems we discussed about our lives in the last 36 hours:

  • Bipolar disorder
  • Falling asleep on the couch at 8 pm 
  • Sharing little-known AARP discounts
  • Not being able to bend over to tie our shoes
  • Hearing aids
  • Having to pass around a jar of salsa until one of us could finally open it
  • Not being able to eat the salsa because our stomachs are having a difficult time tolerating spiciness lately
  • Forgetting to write down all the good drag names we think of
  • Worrying that some of the drag names we think of are perhaps too racy and inappropriate to post on Facebook
  • A collective growing fear of hobos peeking in our bedroom windows 
  • Lamenting over the Trivago guy’s wasted heterosexuality
  • Getting Xanax and statin pills mixed up because they look the same
  • Realizing we all know who Lola Falana is 
  • No wifi 
  • Constipation 
  • Marc thinks “Boys in the Band” is a good movie
  • Remembering Gary’s old boyfriend’s name
  • Cancer

Giraffes! I forgot to photograph the giraffes!

Goodbye, giraffes!

Goodbye, weekend vacation home with the poop-n-greet bathroom and the towering living room and the dearth of pie servers and the peek-up-my-little-black-dress over-the-sofa “art” print and the lovely Chicago friends and the glass table that has Gilloollied all of our shins AND THE AWESOME-ALBEIT-KNOTTY-PINE-APRÈS-SKI-LODGE-ESQUE EVITA BALCONY